During July–August 2006 the seventeenth season of excavation at Tel Hazor was scheduled to take place. Due to the war breaking out in the north the excavation was curtailed after two weeks (License No. G-16/2006). In September, fieldwork was completed in Area A-5 and several conservation measures were implemented before the beginning of the rainy season. The ‘Selz Foundation Excavations at Hazor in Memory of Yigael Yadin’, on behalf of the Hebrew University and under the auspices of the Israel Exploration Society, were conducted by an expedition headed by A. Ben-Tor that included D. Ben-Ami (supervision Area A-4), S. Kisilevitz (supervision Area A-2), D. Zigler and V. Avrutis (supervision Area A-5), S. Zuckerman, A. Davidovich and B. Drake (supervision Area M), J. Rosenberg (surveying), O. Cohen and I. Strand (conservation), M. Cimadevilla (photography), A. Madvig-Struer (office and find registration) and S. Yadid and I. Strand (administration). Students and volunteers from several countries participated in the excavation, among them a group from the Associates for Biblical Research from the United States (led by G. Franz), a group of students from Romania (led by T. Aldea), as well as volunteers from the United States, Canada and Europe and archaeology students from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Area A-2 (Fig. 1). The aim in this area was to remove the layer of fallen mud bricks (more than 1 m thick) that had accumulated on the pebble pavement north of the palace and to ascertain how it related to the palace. The excavation was suspended c. 0.2 m above the floor and will be completed during the 2007 season.
Area A-4. Excavations were conducted in the northern and southern parts of the area, below the wall foundations of the earlier palace, which extended beneath the courtyard east of the Late Bronze Age palace (HA-ESI 117). It became clear that the walls of the earlier, Middle Bronze Age palace were founded on top of building walls from the Early Bronze Age.
Area A-5 (Fig. 2). The excavation in this area began in 1999 (HA-ESI 111) and was completed this year. The southwestern hall, which is one of three (or four?) large halls that constituted an architectural complex, was entirely cleared. About half of another hall to the north, separated from the southwestern hall by a thick wall was also excavated. The corner of yet another hall, to the east of the northern hall and some traces that point to the presence of a fourth hall were detected east of the southwestern hall.
The walls of the southwestern hall (6 × 10 m) were built in a uniform manner and consisted of a stone foundation (height c. 1.5 m), which was set directly on natural bedrock in the south and west, and a mud-brick superstructure whose walls were composed of dark brown mud bricks or mud-brick material (average width c. 3 m, average preserved height c. 4 m) and lined on the interior and exterior with light colored and dark brown mud bricks. The stone foundation and the mud-brick superstructure were coated with a layer of plaster. The western wall was preserved to a height of 5 m! The northern wall was built inside a bedrock-hewn foundation trench. The eastern wall was founded on top of a low fill deposited atop natural bedrock.
A mud-brick narrow wall set atop a stone foundation in the eastern side of the hall defined a narrow compartment (1.5 × 8.5 m). Two mud-brick low benches were installed along the northern and southern ends of this compartment. A tiny clay tablet inscribed in cuneiform Akkadian that has not yet been deciphered was found on the floor of the compartment. This tablet is almost identical to the one discovered during the 2000 season (IEJ 55, 2005).
No entrance was discerned in the four walls of the hall or in the compartment to its east; therefore, it seems the entire complex was subterranean.
The floor of the hall was a layer of plaster deposited on bedrock and made smooth throughout most of the hall’s area. Natural pockets in bedrock were filled with soil mixed with an abundance of ceramic finds dating to Early Bronze Age III. During the 2003 season, these soil-filled pockets produced a Jemdet Nasr-type cylinder seal and a clay figurine of a four-legged animal.
Building remains and a pit were discerned above the tops of the complex walls in the west, north and east. Potsherds from Late Bronze Age I were found in the pit and Late Bronze Age II fragments were collected from sections of a stone-built installation and a pebble surface. These potsherds, together with the characteristic mud-brick construction of the walls, date the establishment of the complex, at the latest, to the beginning of the Late Bronze Age, and perhaps even somewhat earlier, to the time of ‘Greater Hazor’ in the seventeenth–sixteenth centuries BCE.
As had been reported in previous seasons, the halls were filled in during the eighth century BCE and dwellings were erected atop the fill (HA-ESI 115:3*–4*; 116:3*–4*). The fill material contained thousands of potsherds from the eighth century BCE found on the floor and near the mud-brick walls of the halls.
The function of the complex has not yet been ascertained and it is unclear how the mud-brick walls survived to a height of c. 5 m for close to a thousand years––from the time of their construction to when the complex was filled in the eighth century BCE.
Area M (Fig. 3). The area was expanded to the south and extended from the slope of the upper city in the north to several meters north of the Solomonic Gate in the south. The purpose of the excavation was to re-examine the Iron Age stratigraphy at the site and subsequently, clarify the plan and nature of the Late Bronze Age monumental structure situated beneath the Iron Age strata. The building south of the Bama Complex (HA-ESI 110:4*–5*) is still buried below the Iron Age strata and so far, only its northern part was exposed. It has been suggested that this was the administrative palace of Late Bronze Age Hazor, although this cannot be confirmed until the entire building is uncovered.
The area was excavated to a depth of c. 1 m and two significant discoveries were made. A room that was part of a large building, which extended southward beyond the excavation area, was exposed just below surface; it will be excavated next season. North of the room and contemporary with it were several installations and work surfaces. The ceramic finds definitely dated them to the Persian period, which until now was mostly represented at Hazor by tombs.
Below the large building and to its north, walls, a large pebble-paved courtyard and several installations were exposed, overlaying the tops of stone columns, so very characteristic of the Iron Age construction at Hazor, which belonged to a building whose northern part had been excavated in the 1990s and whose destruction was attributed to the Assyrian conquest of Hazor (Yadin's Stratum V). The pottery associated with the pebble-paved courtyard, or with the wall sections and the installations above the tops of columns, was from the Iron Age and therefore, the remains should be dated to the Assyrian period (Yadin’s Stratum III) or to the Israelite settlement following the destruction of Hazor by Tiglath Pileser III (Yadin’s Stratum IV). We are inclined to accept the second possibility at this early stage. The architectural remains ascribed to these two periods (Strata III–IV), which have so far been uncovered at Hazor, are meager; hence those recently discovered in Area M are of particular significance.
Restoration and Conservation. Work had begun before the beginning of the season. It continued during the season and achieved several goals. The walls of the Solomonic Gate were raised significantly; debris, accumulating over the years along the eastern façade of the casemate walls, was removed; the wall of basalt orthostats, separating the palace courtyard from the corridor to the throne room, was restored; wooden doorjambs were installed in the entrance to the throne room and the eastern wall of the palace was stabilized by supporting wooden beams that were incorporated within it. The work was carried out with funding provided by several foundations, among them the Selz Foundation (USA), the Reginald and Esme Benjamin Foundation (Australia) and the Hecht Fund (Israel).